Thursday, February 23, 2017

Eye-catching dust jacket illustration by Ilonka Karasz

When browsing through some books at a sale in Lancaster last year, it was the dust jacket that caught my eye when I came upon this copy of 1945's The World, the Flesh and Father Smith, by Bruce Marshall.1 It's a well-reviewed and well-regarded novel — described as a slightly comic and poignant tale of a Catholic priest, spanning the first half of the 20th century in a small town in Scotland — but not really my cup of tea, reading-wise.

However, I love the dust jacket illustration, even with its chips and tears and ragged edges. It's the work of Ilonka Karasz (1896-1981), a Hungarian-born artist who immigrated to the United States in 1913 and created an amazing artistic legacy for herself.

Here are some facts about her, from Wikipedia and her obituary in The New York Times:

  • In 1914, Karasz, who was only about 18 at the time, co-founded the European-American artists' collective Society of Modern Art. For a few years in her late teens, she also taught textile design at the Modern Art School.
  • From the 1910s to the 1960s, her designs — inspired equally by folk art and modern art — found their way into textiles, wallpaper, rugs, ceramics, furniture, silverware and toys. She also illustrated children's books, including The Twelve Days of Christmas.
  • Karasz's textile work came for companies including Mallinson, Schumacher, Lesher-Whitman, DuPont-Rayon, Susquehanna Silk Mills, Standard Textile, and Belding Brothers. She was known as a pioneer of modern textile designs requiring the use of the Jacquard loom and became one of the few women to design textiles for airplanes and cars.
  • She began painting covers for The New Yorker in 1924 and continued up to 1973, creating a total of 186 covers. Most featured lively vignettes of daily life viewed from above and drawn using unusual color combinations.

I think the description of her covers for The New Yorker would also apply to her work on The World, the Flesh and Father Smith, though the latter is more subdued. You can check out some of Karasz's amazing (trust me) covers for The New Yorker, plus her other work, at the blog Fishink.2 For more about Karasz, you should also see this terrific 2010 post on a blog titled We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie.

1. From the back-cover blurb: "Bruce Marshall is a dark, smiling man..."
2. Art prints of The New Yorker covers are available from Condé Nast.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cool illustrations: The New Human Interest Library (Part 17)

This is the final post from "The Do-It-Yourself Book" portion of 1929's The New Human Interest Library, and we're going out with a bang, creating our own zoo. I believe that the creature on the far left is supposed to be a lion. And we are also presented with an illustration of a chicken facing off with a monkey — a duel that looks like a weird twist on Freddy vs. Jason.

Here are some excerpts from the text:

  • "They did not look much like animals then, but that was before they were touched and brought into shape by the wonderful fairies Needle and Thread."
  • "our fierce lion was a corner of fawn-colored, smooth-faced cloth from a tailor-made suit"
  • "our fat pig and dear little white bunny were odds and ends of eider-down"
  • "The best materials are tightly woven stuffs that are plain on one side and fluffy or shaggy on the other. Thin and loose cloths that easily fray are troublesome."
  • "Stuff always with unbleached wadding. A yard will fill three or four animals of 7 inches or 8 inches long and 4 inches or 5 inches in height."

Here's a closer look at this showdown, which involves either a very large chicken or a very small monkey...

Monday, February 20, 2017

1912 softball team at Miss Capen's School for Girls

I've already written about my great-grandmother, Greta Chandler, and her basketball exploits at West Chester Normal School, circa 1913. Now we have a photograph of Greta with her softball team, about one year earlier.

The only caption is "Capon School 1912." With a little help from Mom and some Google searching, the strong likelihood is that this is the softball team from Miss Capen's School for Girls in Northhampton, Massachusetts. (Capon having been misspelled in the family album.)

Miss Capen's School was a preparatory school, run by Bessie T. Capen, connected with Smith College, and many (but not all) of its students went on to attend that college. It was originally known as The Burnham School, before Capen took over. It was closed in 1920, when Miss Capen died. Here's a little bit more about the school, clipped from 1915's A Handbook of the Best Private Schools of the United States and Canada, Volume 1.

There were at least two buildings associated with Capen's School. Both became parts of the Smith College campus after 1920.

Here's a closer look at the 1912 Capen's School softball team. Greta Chandler is in second row, the third person from the left.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

1940s comic postcard and "girls out for a whirl"

This illustrated postcard from the 1940s presents the comic cliché of the Beleaguered Husband and Domineering Wife.

He says, "I'm going to have pneumonia, Toots!"

She replies, "You'll have nothing till I've had a new hat!"

(I can't help but be reminded of the piles of old hat boxes we brought out of the attic and master bedroom of the house on Oak Crest Lane — the longtime residence of my great-grandparents, Greta and Howard.)

This card was postmarked on May 20, 1942, in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. It was mailed to Mr. and Mrs. Jake Echan of Union, New Jersey (who also turned up in this February 3 post). This cursive message states:
Hello Folks
Here we are just a couple of girls out for a whirl. And what a place to find it. The best we did was soldiers on the train.
Best Regards from us
Cecilia & Carmen

Cool illustrations: The New Human Interest Library (Part 16)

Dollhouse decorating has been one of the under-served content areas on Papergreat over the years. To help remedy that situation, here are some illustrated instructions on making dollhouse curtains from Page 127 of 1929's The New Human Interest Library. (We're still in "The Do-It-Yourself Book.")

The one-room dollhouse itself had been described earlier in the book, in great detail. These instructions further tell us that "the material for the curtains may be of any thin material, as dotted Swiss or curtain scrim."

No credit is provided for this nicely lettered info-graphic. Note the overlapping O's. I wonder if that was a special touch that the artist employed often, as a kind of calling card.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Two vintage postcards with comforting pastoral settings

It's a beautiful Spring day here in mid-February in the northeastern United States. So hopefully you're enjoying the outdoors and not sitting inside reading a blog about old paper...

Shepherd in Cyprus
"Cypriot shepherd" is the caption on the back of this card.

The Republic of Cyprus is a small island nation in the Mediterranean Sea. In the middle of the 20th century, agriculture and livestock were the backbone of the nation's economy. That has waned in the past few decades, as the service sector has risen to the forefront of the economy, while farming operations have become dependent upon government subsidies to remain afloat.

Previous Papergreat posts have featured sheep from France, France (again) and Parts Unknown.

This postcard has nothing to indicate its publisher or year of production. It has never been used.

* * *

Village and lake
Speaking of France, here is today's second postcard. It was produced in Strasbourg, France, and the caption on the back states "METZERAL — La Fischbœdle." Metzeral is a commune (township or, in this case, just a village) of about 1,100 residents in northeastern France. Its economy revolves around cheese-making and water-bottling. Fischbœdle is the name of a small lake within walking distance of Metzeral; it is the lake pictured on this postcard. It seems like a wonderful place to sit under a tree at the edge of the lake and read a book.

Stamped in purple on the back is the date August 21, 1946. But this postcard has not otherwise been used or written on.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Mystery real photo postcard:
Man and two women

Today's real photo postcard features a man with his arms around two women who are sitting in front of him. There are no identifications and the only clue on the back of the postcard is this:


That's not a huge help, though I did find a couple of Google hits suggesting this might have been a location in Taneytown, Maryland.

This is an AZO postcard and the stamp box, with four upward-pointing triangles, tells us that it dates to between 1904 and 1918.

And that's it for clues. All three individuals in this postcard look fairly youthful, but it's a bit hard to be sure. My best guess might be that we're looking at a brother and his two sisters. But husband-wife-daughter and father-daughter-daughter are possibilities, too, I reckon. Here's a closer look at the gang...

Other mystery RPPCs

Thursday, February 16, 2017

1960s science-fiction book cover: "Down to Earth"

But what about the book itself? Here's a closer look at Down to Earth, the science-fiction novel at the center of last night's Tucked Away Inside post.

  • Title: Down to Earth (the original UK hardcover title was Antic Earth)
  • Cover blurb: "A stunning science-fiction flight into the unearthly future"
  • Author: Louis Charbonneau
  • Cover illustrator: Paul Lehr (1930-1998)
  • Publisher: Bantam Books (F3442)
  • Date of publication: July 1967
  • Price: 50 cents
  • Pages: 187
  • Format: Paperback
  • Excerpt from back-cover blurb: "The Earth was little more than a memory for them — a memory stretching over time and the black abyss of space, a memory kept alive by the huge, three-dimensional images sent up to save them from the madness of their isolation."
  • First two sentences: The first incidents occurred on June 21, 2135 A.D. Dave Perry knew the exact date because a careful daily check of the chronometer had become a ritual.
  • Last sentence: "Huh!" said Jackie, as if he had thereby said it all.
  • Random sentence from middle: Now she hated bridge.
  • About the author: Charbonneau, born in 1924 in Detroit, Michigan, might still be alive as of the this writing. He'd be in his early 90s, and I cannot find any evidence of or reference to his death online. According to the "About the Author" section on the last page of this book, he served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, has been an English literature teacher and has written for the Los Angeles Times. ... According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, he "also wrote nonfantastic Westerns as by Carter Travis Young" and made his science-fiction debut in 1958 with No Place on Earth. Of his handful of science-fiction books, the Encyclopedia adds: "In all these novels Charbonneau tends towards claustrophobic situations in which his rather conventional protagonists explore themselves through action scenarios."
  • About the cover artist: Lehr is well-regarded in the history of science-fiction illustration. You can see large versions of some of his work on this post on the Muddy Colors blog. And check out even more of his artwork on Melt and Monster Brains. ... Muddy Colors states: "Along with illustrators like Richard Powers and John Schoenherr, Lehr's surrealistic works help define [the 1960s'] distinctly abstract style." And the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction adds: "while his works were not as extravagantly surreal as those of an artist he is sometimes compared to, Richard M. Powers, those two artists did contribute significantly to the distinctively imaginative style of sf art during that era, which for some represents the peak of the form's long history." ... A documentary called "The Visionary World of Paul Lehr" is in production, and you can learn more at the official website.
  • A positive review: From Goodreads (where the book has a 3.17-star out of 5 rating), Duane Colwell writes: "Very enjoyable. I read it first in 1967 and a couple times since. Recommended. Just finished reading it again, for, I think, the third time. Still a good story. Imaginative and exciting."
  • A negative review: In 2011, and Amazon reviewer with the moniker "Mithridates VI of Pontus" wrote [excerpt]: "The seductive combination of a beautiful cover by Paul Lehr, a seldom read author, a fascinating premise (well, at least from the back cover) appeared at first glance a glorious chance for the pen to wax delightfully on the glories everyone else missed out on. As much as the esotericist delights in searching through back catalogues of dusty books the lack of extant information/reviews on the work entails risk. If I had known the entire plot revolves around a vengeful/vindictive/insane man inflicting tortures (the PG-13 sort) on an unsuspecting family hanging out in space -- à la a watered down version of Michael Haneke's Funny Games (1997) without its postmodern deconstruction of our desire to watch violence -- I would have never spent my hard-earned $2.00 on a copy. ... If you find the book in your local bookstore gaze a moment at the Paul Lehr cover and set it back down. Avoid."